Daniel Faalele, a rising senior left tackle at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, already has offers from Alabama, Florida State, LSU and Michigan under his belt. The strange part? Faalele has yet to play in an actual high school football game.
How’d he get all those offers? Well, he’s 6-foot-9, 390 pounds. Not every giant can hack it in high-caliber college football, but Faalele looks to be a stellar athlete with an ideal build. Why hasn’t he played in a real game yet? Because he didn’t even know what American football was a few years ago.
In 2015, an assistant coach from the University of Hawaii was at the gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. Seeing Faalele lifting weights there, the coach decided to offer him a scholarship on the spot. Faalele knew nothing about American football, but he was intrigued. He was no stranger to sports—he had grown up playing rugby before shifting his focus to basketball.
After attending a satellite football camp sponsored by the University of Michigan outside Melbourne, Faalele realized he had some serious football potential. He and his family decided that in order for him to develop, he needed to play and train at an American high school. And where better than IMG Academy? The Ascenders are the No. 1 high school program in the country in terms of churning out top recruits, and their facilities rival those of many NFL teams.
Faalele arrived at IMG last summer eager to learn. And boy, did he have a lot to learn. He didn’t know what a first down was. He didn’t know what a yard was. He was perplexed by the concept of kickoffs and punts. With such a steep learning curve, Faalele and the IMG coaches agreed it would be best for him to focus on practice and development during his junior season.
Those practices—where Faalele competed against some of the best defensive recruits in the country on a daily basis—were enough to convince programs like Alabama and Florida State that he could be an All-American at the next level. He’s surprisingly athletic for his size, and his physique is impressive for a player who tips the scales at roughly 400 pounds. “It’s as if someone fed the size of the ideal NFL offensive tackle into a 3D printer and set the output to 120%,” Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples wrote of Faalele.
According to IMG’s head of sports science Matt Rhea, Faalele is one of the most powerful athletes to ever step inside IMG’s weight room. “I was amazed at how fast he is for how big he is,” Rhea told SI. “His lower body power is higher than anything I’ve ever measured.” For example, Faalele produced 2,429 watts of power this spring performing a cable machine exercise that simulates a shot putting motion. NFL players typically produce around 2,200 watts on the same drill.
What’s really exciting is that Faalele is finally ready for game action. He played in IMG’s recent spring scrimmage, engulfing anyone unfortunate enough to be in his path:
We’ll be sure to keep you updated on how Faalele’s senior season plays out at IMG.
Photo Credit: Daniel Faalele’s Instagram